Mammals cannot evolve fast enough to escape extinction


Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 16 October 2018

ANTHROPOCENE

Mammalian Collapse Continues

Mammals cannot evolve fast enough to escape current extinction crisis,

MAIN POINTS

"Humans are exterminating animal species so fast that evolution can't keep up; Unless conservation efforts are improved, so many mammal species will die out during the next 50 years that nature will need 3-5 million years to recover, a new study shows..."

Aarhus University, October 15, 2018.

MAIN POINTS

“We humans are exterminating animal and plant species so quickly that nature's built-in defence mechanism, evolution, cannot keep up. An Aarhus-led research team calculated that if current conservation efforts are not improved, so many mammal species will become extinct during the next five decades that nature will need 3-5 million years to recover.”

“There have been five upheavals over the past 450 million years when the environment on our planet has changed so dramatically that the majority of Earth's plant and animal species became extinct.”

“The sixth mass extinction is happening now, but this time the extinctions are not being caused by natural disasters; they are the work of humans. A team of researchers from Aarhus University and the University of Gothenburg has calculated that the extinctions are moving too rapidly for evolution to keep up.”

“If mammals diversify at their normal rates, it will still take them 5-7 million years to restore biodiversity to its level before modern humans evolved, and 3-5 million years just to reach current biodiversity levels...”

 

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Killing the Rare & the Common
"Large mammals, or megafauna, such as giant sloths and sabre-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct. Since they had few close relatives, their extinctions meant that entire branches of Earth's evolutionary tree were chopped off.”

"There are hundreds of species of shrew, so they can weather a few extinctions. There were only four species of sabre-toothed tiger; they all went extinct."

Recovery Possible?
“Can existing mammals naturally regenerate this lost biodiversity?”

“...able to quantify how much evolutionary time would be lost from past and potential future extinctions as well as how long recovery would take.”

In “Ideal” Conditions

“...a best-case scenario of the future, where humans have stopped destroying habitats and eradicating species, reducing extinction rates to the low background levels seen in fossils.”

Millions of Years
“...even with this overly optimistic scenario, it will take mammals 3-5 million years just to diversify enough to regenerate the branches of the evolutionary tree that they are expected to lose over the next 50 years. It will take more than 5 million years to regenerate what was lost from giant Ice Age species.”

Grim Present, Dire Future
“...we now live in a world that is becoming increasingly impoverished of large wild mammalian species. The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly...”

 

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